Sinead Kissane: Trimble hopes to return refreshed in bid to answer Schmidt's World Cup call
What a come-down this season must have been for Andrew Trimble. It's been a write-off after the unfortunate case of him injuring his same toe twice. He originally damaged the ligament during an Ulster game last October.
He was just back training in February after nearly four months of recovery when he pushed off on his foot a bit too hard in an effort to chase a prop. His toe went again.
Moral of the story? Don't run after a prop in training.
In the mini-mourning stage after the repeat injury, he spent a bit of time fearing there was something seriously wrong with his foot. He quickly got that out of his head and focused on repeating the countless hours of rehab he had just completed.
From going on crutches to a boot, from hobbling around to not being able to drive. And the awkwardness of simple tasks like trying to put soup in a microwave and spilling it all over the place.
As part of his recuperation the second time, Trimble did a lot of rowing which helped to get the blood flowing. Being injured most of the season was "isolating enough" but he kept himself involved by going to an Ulster team meeting sometimes so he was tactically aware of what's going on.
On Thursday he got the all-clear from a specialist in London to return training (but no contact training just yet).
Trimble said he was "10pc jealous and 90pc delighted for the boys" as he watched Ireland retain the Six Nations. His rehab from this injury could run all the way into pre-season training but all he wants to do is concentrate on being fit for Ireland's World Cup warm-up games in August and see where that takes him.
Trimble is a player who seems to buck the norm. It was after 50 Ireland caps that he finally came into his own by playing his best games in the 2014 Six Nations.
Off the pitch in interviews, he also came into his own; he's funny, articulate, quick-witted and honest. In fact, he's a guy with a curious capacity to surprise.
Who else would publicly describe their first experience of a Joe Schmidt training session as "mayhem". Schmidt's sessions initially translated into a kind of mental and physical exhaustion for Trimble because they were nothing like he had experienced before.
"It's so intense and you're under pressure the whole time," Trimble explains. Under previous coaches, if you made a mistake you could get away with it.
Under Schmidt "if you get something wrong you'll know all about it," Trimble adds. He used to be so wrecked after training that all he was fit for was finding a quiet place in the team-room to lay-out and recover.
But we know how Trimble thrived in that kind of mayhem. In the following Six Nations, he started all of Ireland's games and scored three tries. His strike-rate and all-round fine performances quickly turned into awards; IRUPA Players' Players of the Year, Ulster Player of the Year, Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year.
Trimble had half a century of Ireland caps BS (Before Schmidt). But who would have foreseen that he would be the player to profit the most from Schmidt's expertise with his brilliant and uncompromising form last season.
There has been one thing Trimble hasn't missed while injured. He has never got used to the stress he feels on the morning of a game. It doesn't get to him as much when he is in a team hotel, more so when he is at home on his own and waiting around for an evening kick-off.
He can be a "bag of nerves" all day and psyches himself up by thinking stuff like: "you 100pc cannot mess up here or the boys will think you're an idiot".
That's a pretty guff-free motivational line.
It's been this high-pressure emotional stress that Trimble has been temporarily relieved of. "I enjoy not having to deal with that side of the game. But when you don't have it, you miss it as well," Trimble concedes. "I feel this break will freshen me up mentally as well as physically".
During last year's Six Nations Trimble was the fall-guy as he did more than his share of TV interview duty during match weeks.
Maybe his form on the pitch made him more at ease with himself in an interview setting. He quickly became one of my favourite players to interview. He wasn't afraid to veer "off-message" and say normal stuff, like making fun of how jealous they all were with Brian O'Driscoll because of the new boots he got for his final Ireland home game.
His humour and honesty means the rest of us outside of the squad get a chance to know the real Trimble.
"I think I'm probably just too trusting. I'm probably just naïve and not really a good liar," Trimble laughs. "I say whatever I think".
Trimble will understandably have some caution when it comes to going full-tilt at training. He says he'll be devastated if he does the injury again with the World Cup coming up.
No, it hasn't quite been like the circus when David Beckham injured his metatarsal before the 2002 FIFA World Cup with countless pages of in-depth analysis of his injury. But Ireland's stock would rise even more with a fit-again Trimble.
Then the mind-games will kick-in for him again. While injured, he wasn't paranoid about his place because there was nothing he could do about it. It's when he returns playing that the overthinking could start again.
Today he will watch Ulster against Munster. Players like Tommy Bowe, (Craig Gilroy when he recovers from that untimely hamstring injury), Simon Zebo and Keith Earls will all compete for places alongside Trimble and Co to make Schmidt's World Cup squad.
Before that, Trimble will enjoy his own life-changing experience. He and his wife Anna are expecting their first baby in July.
This will bring a new, exciting and brilliant kind of mayhem.
And we all know how Trimble thrives in that kind of environment.